It began at a time unknown. But in 1975, is when it started.
The apologue starts with stories of the great Connie Hawkins (supposedly) coming to the south side of Chicago in the summers to battle against the great Cazzie Russell on a court on South Park Boulevard. They wanted to see not who was better, but who was the best.
Connie would have his boys from New York; Cazzie, his crew from the crib. They'd go at it, doing the amazing things that they couldn't do in NBA games. Barbershops would close, fried-chicken shacks would shut down for the day. All eyes would be on them. Waiting to see who would leave the court with a title more mythical than anything J.K. Rowling could imagine. Which city was best, Chicago or New York? The game of basketball lived for an answer.
Then two known gods, gods larger than Connie and Cazzie, found themselves looking into each other's eyes only to see images mirrored beyond the stories that made them very familiar with one another. James "Fly" Williams was from the streets of New York, Billy "The Kid" Harris was from the blocks in Chicago. They were the best both cities had ever seen on concrete. To be honest, according to some, they were too good for the NBA.
The stories told of them were ghetto mythology of Zeushizzle nature. On the streets of NY, Fly was better than Julius Erving, in CHI, "The Kid" was better than the Bulls ... the whole team! And when it came to whose city had the greatest playground player of all time, each city claimed their own as P.I.M.P.
Then during the summer of 1975, mythology hit the fan.
"That game ... was probably the greatest exhibition of just raw total offense that maybe happened anywhere," The Kid remembers. "I think we had a stretch where both of us went something like 13, 14 straight. back and forth, back and forth.
"We had about 47 apiece," Fly said. "I remember that."
The game was so mythical, it was chronicled in Dime magazine in an Isaac Paris-penned story titled, "The Greatest Game Never Told." NY verses CHI. Neither remembers who won the game, but they both know that that game gave rebirth to the debate: player, game, passion ... who reigned?
Thirty years later, the question remains unanswered. But one city is about to gain an advantage. The best high school ballplayers from New York roll into the Crilla to battle against the best high school players Chicago has to offer. For six years, this battle has taken place. The series is tied 3-3. One city is about to talk mad "ish" for 12 months.
The Old Spice Red Zone Shootout is a game created specifically to answer the question that has remained unanswered for half a century.
"There's always been a natural rivalry between Chicago and New York," says Paragon Marketing Group event director T.J. Cohen, organizer and creator of the game. "It's which city has the best pizza, hot dog, baseball team, tallest building ... it goes beyond basketball."
Which city has the best fashion scene, civic leaders, bars, artists, transit system, mayors, architecture, neighborhoods. But basketball remains at the core.